February 3, 2011
By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist
Q: So apparently the ice maker in hell may be churning a cube after all. My mother actually brought up trans stuff with me and asked me questions about it. Though this is probably good news, I’m not going to get my hopes up. This is the first time in my life she’s actually been remotely interested in my life, which is really an understatement.
What resources would be recommended?? She wants to try the web approach before talking to anyone, but she’s wanting information for mothers of transpersons. Any suggestions? Anything would be helpful. She is really introverted so web stuff would be her desired route for now.
A: Okay, you know, I honestly thought this was going to be easier. I read this question and BAM!, I knew it was the right one for this month’s column. I thought, “This’ll be easy, I’m trans, I’ve got a Mom, I had to do this. I know this.”
But I kept trying to start and just not getting anywhere. Moms are a tricky thing, really. We all have quirks about our Mom’s and our relationships with them that feel so particular. Ways we react to each other that are just unique; ways we know our Mom’s that no one else does.
For instance, my own Mom is the sort of person who can watch a Lifetime Original movie and not only not have to fight down the urge to throw things at the screen and wish horrible Voodoo curses upon the writers (my reaction), but actually enjoy it and even get all teary eyed. Whereas, I tend to favor independent densely plotted, obscurely surreal, Black Comedies. So you would not expect that one of the things we seem to bond over is a mutual love of Big-Budget, effects laden, whiz-bang, blow ’em-up Hollywood spectacles! You’d never guess this from meeting us.
So when it comes to giving advice about someone else’s Mom, I was oddly hesitant.
Then I remembered an important thing. I’m an advice columnist! Taking that leap is what I do.
So, my friend Japheth, here is my advice.
First of all, I recommend brushing up on your own Trans 101. It’s easy to feel like, being actually trans and all, that you have all the answers if they’d just ask. But trust me, if you’re about to send your Mom out there into the wilds of the Internet, she’s going to come back at you with some pretty wacky stuff. Your job is to be one step ahead of her and as familiar with what she might find as possible. It’s also quite likely that you will be asked to define things that you never really felt the need to try to.
Things like, “How do you know you’re a man/a woman/not-any-gender-at-all?” (Pick your adventure and proceed to page 23, 5, or 42) Or my personal favorite, “Was this because of something I did?” (No Mom it wasn’t. I swear, I promise!!-LE)
Getting on to the resources, first I am pretty much obligated to recommend checking out my own Mom, Linda Carragher Bourne’s column in the online version of TRT, “Ask A TransMom.” I’m kinda biased, but I think she’s pretty cool and wicked smart. She’ll be able to answer your Mom’s questions from the perspective of someone who has been there!
Also, I highly recommend that you point your Mom towards PFLAG. The organization known formally as “Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” has done a lot of good work reaching out to transgender people and their PFFs. Send her to the website, PFLAG.org and tell her to click the “Transgender” tab to go to TNET, PFLAG’s Transgender Network. There she’ll find all manner of articles, FAQs, terminology and links to local chapters for when she’s ready for offline support.
From there you might also want to point her towards the website, “Transsexual Road Map,” (tsroadmap.com). It’s a site aimed primarily at Transsexuals, with all kinds of nuts and bolts information of the kind that transfolks need and parents may want to know. It’s got a simple layout, user-friendly design, balanced tone and it’s well-sourced with over 1,500 pages of info and growing!
I’ve dropped the name of this website so often in this column that I think it’s starting to show that I’m really kind of a fan girl for the site and its creator, Andrea James. Not only is it the first thing I encountered when I went looking for info myself, but it’s also one of the oldest, continuously maintained websites on the internet! Plus Andrea James herself is kind of awesome! She’s not only beautiful and smart; she’s a writer, director, producer, activist and frequent guest blogger for my favorite non-trans website, BoingBoing.net.
Getting back on track, there are lots of other places on the net, but the key Japheth is also not to totally overwhelm your Mom. Too many online resources will just send her down a rabbit-hole filled with too much flash animation, sparkles and pink butterflies. And while, I will give a shout out to the plethora of good resources available from “Laura’s Playground,” (lauras-playground.com), that’s as far down into the Pastel-Flash Underground as I’m willing to go.
So, before I send you off with a truckload of links for your Mom, I would also like to recommend a book. (Shock, horror!) “Gender Outlaw” by Kate Bornstein was a book that was pivotal for me as a young transwoman and it was the book I gave to my own Mom. Kate Bornstein is an excellent writer and her book makes a good primer for anyone just entering this strange and topsy-turvy world of transgender.
Good luck! Slainte!
*Lorelei Erisis, former Miss Trans New England, can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org